Saturday, November 30, 2013

Study:Belief in God Helps Those with Depression; Respond to Treatment Twice as Much as Atheists

Belief in God tends to improve treatment for those suffering with depression, a recent study has found, the Daily Mail (British) website reports today (November 30, 2013).

Faith in a higher being was found to significantly improve treatment for people suffering with a psychiatric illness, according to research carried out by McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Researchers followed 159 patients over the course of a year at the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital program to investigate the relationship between a patient's level of belief in God, expectations for treatment, and actual treatment outcomes.

Each participant was asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome on a five-point scale. Researchers found that patients with "no" or only "slight" belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief.

Students Intensify Anti-Govt. Protests in Egypt; One Univ. Student Killed, Dozens More Arrested

Students in Egypt who support deposed president Mohamed Morsi have intensified their anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks, staging strikes and clashing with police on university campuses -- where Islamists have deep roots -- as security forces clamp down on dissent, the Washington Post website reports today (November 30, 2013).

The authorities have adopted a tough line in response, granting police the authority to enter college campuses without warrants to quell protests. On November 28, security forces firing tear gas and water cannons broke up the latest big rally at Cairo University, setting off clashes that left one person dead.

The government's actions are raising fears of a return to an approach that prevailed before Egypt's 2011 revolution, with security forces harassing and intimidating students and professors in the name of national security.

Since mid-November, police have used tear gas, batons, and birdshot to disperse near-daily protests against the military-appointed government at universities in Cairo, the Nile Delta, and Upper Egypt in the south. One student at Cairo's al-Azhar University was killed November 21, and dozens more have been arrested.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tenn. Student Sets Teacher on Fire During Class; Sneaks Behind Her,Burns Hair,Shirt with Lighter

Authorities in Tennessee say a 15-year-old high school student set his teacher's hair and clothes on fire during class earlier this week, the Gawker website reports today (November 29, 2013).

Gabriela Penalba -- a science teacher at West High School in Knoxville -- had her back to the classroom when the teen snuck up behind her and ignited her hair and shirt with a lighter.

Students rushed to the 23-year-old teacher's aid, helping her extinguish the blaze, thus avoiding serious burns.

The student tossed the lighter out a nearby window and fled, but was soon caught by school resource officers. The suspect was charged with aggravated assault and evading arrest, and was transported to a juvenile detention facility.

Nigerian Radical Islamists Using Child Soldiers; Boko Haram Uses Kids,12, Abducts, Rapes Women

The Human Rights Watch today (November 29, 2013) said the Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram has been using children as young as 12 as fighters and has abducted and raped women, while the government has failed to account for hundreds of detained men and boys, according to the Newsmax World website.

Boko Haram -- which is fighting to impose Islamic law in Africa's top oil producer -- has killed hundreds of people in recent attacks, New York-based Human Rights Watch said today.

"For a group that claims to be religious, Boko Haram's tactics are the most profane acts we can imagine," Daniel Bekele, Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "The killing and mutilation of ordinary Nigerians, the abduction and rape of women and girls, and the use of children for fighting are horrifying human rights violations."

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has imposed emergency rule in three northern states where Boko Haram is most active. A recent study revealed that in 2012 more Christians were killed in Nigeria than in all the other countries in the world combined.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Russian Orth. Church Head Rejects State Merger; Says Only an Ind. Church Can Preach Successfully

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has rejected allegations -- resulting primarily from an exceptionally close church-state relationship -- of a possible official union between his institution and the state, adding that only an independent Church can preach successfully, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (November 28, 2013).

"The Church is protecting its own freedom because it is sure that only its independence gives her an opportunity to be a fully-fledged spiritual authority. Any form of merger between the state and the Church is dangerous for God's cause. A sermon sounds loud and convincing only when it is delivered by a free church," Patriarch Kirill said.

The patriarch emphasized that the internal regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church forbid the clergy from assuming any powers among secular authorities. The state, in turn, has no direct leverage to influence the church's policies, he added.

Russia's top cleric noted that the repressions against the Church that took place in Soviet Russia in the first half of the 20th century were largely a result of "the enslavement of the church by the state," possibly hinting at the exclusive role the Russian Orthodox Church played during the Russian Empire, which ended as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

US Decides to Move Out of Its Vatican Embassy; Will Move to US Embassy in Italy for Security

The relocation of the US Vatican Embassy onto Italian soil has come under fire from past U.S. ambassadors, who say the move will diminish its influence, although State Department officials defend the decision as good for security, the CNA (Catholic News Agency) website reports today (November 28, 2013).

Former US ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson said the embassy's planned move to the grounds of the Embassy to Italy is "another manifestation of the antipathy of this administration both to Catholics and to the Vatican -- and to Christians in the Middle East.

"This is a key post for intermediation in so many sovereignties but particularly in the Middle East," Nicholson said.

He added, "This is anything but a good time to diminish the stature of this post. To diminish the stature of this post is to diminish its influence."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Paris Court OKs Nursery Firing a Muslim Woman; Fatima Afif Sacked for Wearing Headscarf at Work

A Paris appeals court today (November 27, 2013) upheld the right of a nursery to fire a female employee who insisted on wearing an Islamic headscarf at work, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

The ruling is the latest round of a long-running legal battle which has pitted France's secular authorities against sections of the country's large Muslim minority.

In its ruling, the appeals court overturned a controversial March 2013 verdict that the "Baby-Wolf" kindergarten in the Paris suburbs had been guilty of religious discrimination when it dismissed Fatima Afif in 2008.

Afif was sacked after telling her employer that -- upon her return to work following a five-year maternity break -- she wanted to wear a headscarf at work. The head of the day nursery refused, citing the establishment's rules that employees had to be neutral in terms of philosophy, politics, and faith.

Rush Limbaugh Blasts Pope's View of Capitalism; Says Pope a Marxist for Calling Capitalism Tyranny

On his talk show today (November 27, 2013), popular commentator Rush Limbaugh admitted being "befuddled" by the harsh words about "unfettered capitalism" released this week by Pope Francis, the Raw Story website reports.

Noting that he is not Catholic -- but he has made several visits to the Vatican, which "couldn't exist without tons of money" -- Limbaugh said he admired the religion and its new pope. During the past several weeks, the pope has emphasized Christ's teaching that poor people be assisted by rich people, in order to help alleviate their predicament.

But the new pronouncement, the pope's latest Evangelli Gadium -- or Joy of the Gospel -- was a surprisingly frontal attack on capitalism, with Francis calling it a form of tyranny.

This didn't sit well with Limbaugh, who said: "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pope Welcomes Russian Pres. Putin to the Vatican; Fail to Discuss Cath.-Orth. Ecumenical Relations

Peace in the Middle East -- especially the ongoing civil war of nearly three years in Syria -- topped the agenda yesterday, as Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican, the Catholic News website reports today (November 26, 2013).

The Russian president "conveyed the greetings of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, but there was not a discussion of ecumenical relations," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. Moreover, Putin failed to extend an invitation to Pope Francis to visit his predominantly Orthodox Christian nation.

A formal statement issued after the meeting said "special attention was given to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and to the serious situation in Syria."

Putin's government has been a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad -- supplying him with modern Russian weapons periodically during Syria's civil war -- and has blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions to authorize the use of force to oust the Syrian president.

Md. Woman Admits to Stealing $5M from Her Job; Made Checks to Herself from Nonprofit AAMC

An administrative assistant working at a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. admitted yesterday to stealing more than $5 million from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in one of the largest embezzlement schemes ever to occur in the area, the Washington Post website reports today (November 26, 2013).

Ephonia Green, 44, who earned $56,000 a year at the District-based AAMC -- which administers the test known as the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) that is used as a criterion in medical school admissions -- pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to carrying out the theft over an eight-year period.

"Her lucrative and long-running scheme came crashing down when her employer discovered her deception and informed law enforcement," U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr., said in a statement released after the hearing. "She now faces years in prison as a result of the millions she stole for her own self-indulgence that were initially intended to benefit educational programs."

Green -- speaking softly and clutching a handkerchief to wipe tears as she answered questions from Judge Beryl Howell -- did not provide any insight into her motivations. As part of the plea, Green agreed to repay $5.1 million to the association. The money will come in part from the sale of her $1.1 million home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. She faces up to 51 months in prison, with a sentencing hearing set for February 28, 2014.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Angola Bans Islam, Closes All Mosques in Nation; Authorities Consider Islam to Be a Cult, Not Rel.

Authorities in Angola -- a predominantly Christian nation and former Portuguese colony in southwestern Africa -- have taken action and decided to ban Islam throughout the country, because they consider it to be a cult, not a religion.

On November 19, Minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz da Silva, said: "Regarding Islam, the legalization process has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Therefore, all mosques would be closed until further notice."

In early October 2013, the Muslims living in Luanda in the municipality of Viana Zango were shocked to see the minaret of their mosque dismantled into pieces on the ground without permission. On October 3, the Angolan authorities decided to destroy the Zango mosque located in the urban district of Viana.

The governor of Luanda Bento announced in a radio spot in early October that Muslims are not welcome in Angola and the Angolan government is not ready for the legalization of mosques in the country. Muslims comprise between 2.5 to 3 percent of Angola's overall population of 17 million people, most of them Christians.

Pope Greets Ukrainian Cath. Pilgrims at Vatican; Celebrating 50th Anniv. of Relics of St. Josaphat

Pope Francis today (November 25, 2013) greeted Ukrainian pilgrims celebrating the 50th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St. Josaphat -- martyr of Church unity -- at St. Peter's Basilica. The delegation was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), according to the RISU (Religious Information Service of Ukraine) website.

"May the memory of this holy Martyr speak of the communion of saints, the communion of life between all those who belong to Christ," said Pope Francis.

"This desire for communion pushes us to try to understand each other, to respect one another, and also to accept and offer fraternal correction," the pope said.

He added, "The best way to celebrate St. Josaphat is to love among each other and to love and serve the unity of the Church."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Israel Approves New Measures to Deport Africans; Claims Africans Are Threat to Its Jewish Character

The Israeli cabinet today (November 24, 2013) approved new measures to begin deporting thousands of Africans who illegally entered the country and who are perceived by it as being a threat to its Jewish character, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

A statement from the prime minister's office said that beyond the measures -- which include a crackdown on employers and financial incentives for home-bound Africans -- the interior ministry has drafted a bill that would enable detainment of illegal migrants for one year without a trial.

The new bill -- which will be brought before parliament on November 25 for an initial hearing and vote -- was formulated after a previous law from 2012 allowing the three-year detainment without a trial of illegals was overturned by Israel's supreme court in September.

"The new decisions include combined actions designed to encourage illegal migrants to leave Israel and return to their countries of origin, increase personal security for residents of Israel, and reduce the presence of migrants in city centers," the prime minister's office said.

Human rights groups say that the majority of African migrants in Israel cannot be deported, because of threats to their lives in many of their native countries, such as Sudan and Eritrea.

Israeli PM: Deal with Iran Is a "Historic Mistake;" Israel Not Bound by Deal, May Need to Attack Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- calling an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program a "historic mistake" -- said today (November 24, 2013) that Israel "has the right and obligation to defend itself by itself against any threat," the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports.

"What was agreed to last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake," Netanyahu said today at the beginning of the regular Cabinet meeting, several hours after the agreement was announced. "Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world."

President Obama was scheduled to call Netanyahu today to discuss the deal, under which Iran will freeze some nuclear activity in exchange for some sanctions being lifted. The United States and five other world powers -- Russia, China, Germany, Britain, and France --  signed the deal in Geneva, Switzerland late last night with Iran.

"Iran is committed to Israel's destruction, and Israel has the right and the  obligation to defend itself by itself against any threat," Netanyahu said. "Israel is not obligated by this agreement. I want to make clear we will not allow Iran to obtain military nuclear capability."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Financing Egyptian Islamists; 50 Extremists Arrested for Attacking Police,Military

Egypt's interior minister today (November 23, 2013) announced the arrest of dozens of "extremists" and accused the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed president Mohamed Morsi of financing radical Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda, the Yahoo News website reports.

Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters that security forces had arrested more than 50 members of "extremist groups" with ties to the network founded by Osama bin Laden and now led by his Egyptian successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The interior minister added the suspects were connected with attacks on police and soldiers that have multiplied and killed more than 100 people since the army deposed Morsi on July 3.

The Brotherhood "supports and massively finances from abroad numerous radical terrorists in several groups" that have since the summer "launched a series of terrorist acts seeking to sow terror," Ibrahim said.

Crystal Mangum Convicted of Killing Boyfriend; Accused 3 Duke Students of Raping Her in 2006

A Durham, NC jury yesterday found Crystal Mangum guilty of second-degree murder for stabbing and killing her boyfriend, Reginald Daye, in 2011, the News Observer website reports today (November 23, 2013). Mangum -- whose accusation of being raped by three Duke University lacrosse players at a party in 2006 became a popular national news story -- tore apart the Duke lacrosse program as well as the reputation of the three players with her rape accusations, although her accusations were finally dismissed because the evidence did not back her story.

Yesterday, after Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway sentenced Mangum to 14 years and two months to 18 years in prison, deputies immediately led her handcuffed out of the courtroom.

Mangum's attorney, Daniel Meir, said she will appeal.

Mangum, 35, stabbed Daye on April 3, 2011 during a fight in which he accused her of disrespecting him by bringing other men to her apartment. Members of Daye's family said they were satisfied with the verdict.

Friday, November 22, 2013

S. Baptist Leader:Wives Must Submit to Husbands; Affirms Married Equal Partners Break Biblical Law

Married couples who consider themselves equal partners are violating biblical law, according to the Southern Baptist Convention's top expert on family concerns, the Raw Story website reports today (November 22, 2013).

Russell Moore -- president of the denomination's ethics and liberty commission -- said Christians determine the nature of reality through their family relationships, but he warned that marital closeness can undermine biblical teachings.

"Often, I think, the gospel is obscured because God has designed a picture of the gospel in the one-flesh union of husband and wife, (and) when that is broken down, you have a false gospel that is being preached," Moore said.

He asserted that the Bible clearly instructs Christian women to be subservient to their husbands, who in turn are commanded to be faithful to their wives. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with more than 16 million members. It is also the second largest Christian body in the U.S., preceded only by the Roman Catholic Church.

Teacher Pleads Guilty in Atlanta,GA Test Scandal; 35 Educators Alleged to Raise Test Scores for $$

A former Atlanta, Georgia public school teacher has pleaded guilty and admitted she encouraged students to change incorrect answers on a standard test, giving prosecutors their first conviction in one of the nation's largest test-cheating scandals, the Reuters website reports today (November 22, 2013).

Former teacher Lisa Terry -- one of 35 educators indicted this year in the Atlanta cheating case -- was sentenced to serve 12 months of probation after she pleaded guilty on November 20 to a misdemeanor count of obstruction, prosecutors said.

"The truth is finally out," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a statement. "There was, in fact, cheating going on in the Atlanta Public School system."

Terry -- who has 19 years of teaching experience -- said in an apology letter that she cheated "out of fear" that she would receive a poor job-performance evaluation or be fired if her fourth grade students' test scores did not improve. A total of 35 Atlanta educators -- including teachers, principals, and the superintendent of schools -- have been indicted in a scheme to raise students' standardized test scores, in order to receive higher bonuses.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Pact Has US Troops in Afghanistan Till 2024; May Conduct Home Raids, Cannot Be Prosecuted

U.S. and Afghan negotiators have reached a security deal that will keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through 2024, while keeping billions of American aid dollars pumping into the country, the Newser website reports today (November 21, 2013).

Afghan President Hamid Karzai today presented the deal to Afghanistan's grand council of elders, urging them to accept it.

In hopes of winning over the council, President Obama sent a letter vowing to respect "Afghan sovereignty" and to raid Afghan homes only under "extraordinary circumstances."

But the U.S. will retain the power to conduct those raids, and its troops will be immune from Afghan prosecution -- two key concessions that the U.S. was not able to secure in similar negotiations with Iraq, causing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country in 2011.

US Drone Kills 6 Pakistanis with Al-Qaeda Ties; Pakistani Officials Say Drone Struck Seminary

American and Pakistani officials disagreed today (November 21, 2013) about whether an Islamic seminary was struck by a U.S. drone, in an unusual attack that inflamed tensions over the CIA drone campaign, according to the Washington Post website.

According to Pakistani officials, three missiles were fired into a compound in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at about 5 a.m. local time today.

They said the drone hit an Islamic seminary, killing four adults and two teachers. The dead included Maulvi Ahmad Jan and Maulvi Hameedullah, who were top surrogates for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second-in-command of the Haqqani militant group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.

A U.S. official with access to classified information about the strike disputed that it was aimed at a seminary. Instead, he said, the CIA fired on a compound associated with the Haqqani network, which is accused of many attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Accused Killer of Russian Priest Unfit for Trial; Sergei Pchelintsev Suffered from Hallucinations

A man suspected of murdering a Russian Orthodox priest has been ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, the RIA Novosti (Russian) website reports today (November 20, 2013).

Pavel Adelgeim -- who was 75 when he was killed -- was found with stab wounds to his chest in early August at his home in the northwestern city of Pskov.

Police shortly afterward arrested 27-year-old Moscow film school graduate, Sergei Pchelintsev, who had been staying at Adelgeim's home.

Investigators say they believe Pchelintsev was suffering from hallucinations and that he behaved oddly after being detained. Police said he wounded himself with a knife after his arrest and said he had been ordered to kill Adelgeim by the devil.

Vandals Hit, Leave Pig Parts in Swedish Mosque; Called Hate Crime Due to Muslims' View of Pork

A mosque in Sweden's Fittja was vandalized yesterday after attackers broke windows and left pig body parts in it, the World Bulletin website reports today (November 20, 2013).

Due to Muslims' aversion to pork, the leaving of pig trotters in the mosque has been deemed a hate crime.

The mosque -- which was built in 2007 -- is the only mosque in Sweden that issues the call to prayer on Fridays and attracts up to 1,500 worshipers.

Almost 500,000 Muslims live in Sweden, making up around five percent of Sweden's overall population.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ohio Court OKs Firing Teacher Displaying Bible; Refused to Remove Rel.Books from Class Display

Ohio's highest court said today (November 19, 2013) that a school district was legally justified in firing a science teacher who refused orders to remove classroom displays of religious materials, according to the Breitbart website.

With three justices dissenting, the state Supreme Court in Columbus ruled that the Mount Vernon district had valid grounds to fire John Freshwater for insubordination for keeping religious books and a poster of a president praying.

The court agreed that the district infringed on Freshwater's First Amendment rights by ordering the removal of his personal Bible, but found he was insubordinate for keeping other religious items.

The court did not address whether Freshwater unconstitutionally taught his religious beliefs.

Twin Explosions in Beirut Kill at Least 23 Today; 147 Wounded, Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility

Two explosions near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon today (November 19, 2013) killed at least 23 people -- including Iran's cultural attache -- Lebanese and Iranian officials said. The blasts appear to be the latest in a string of sectarian bombings linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria -- which has now spread to Lebanon -- according to the Washington Post.

The first explosion -- which occurred in the Bir Hasan area of the Lebanese capital -- detonated outside the residence of Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran's state news agency said. It also said that cultural attache Ibrahim Ansari was killed.

Witnesses said the initial blast brought many residents out onto the street or to their balconies, leaving them vulnerable to a much more powerful second explosion which detonated about two minutes later.

Images from the scene showed bodies lying in the street, and the twisted burning wreckage of cars, while medics rushed some of the injured away on stretchers. Lebanon's Health Ministry said a total of 147 people were wounded.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigade -- an Islamist group with links to al-Qaeda -- claimed responsibility in a message on the social media site Twitter. This is a Sunni Muslim group which has been at war with Shiite Muslims. The attack is designed to convince Lebanon to release its Sunni prisoners and to withdraw its Shiite group Hezbollah from Syria, where they have joined forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to try to defeat a Sunni uprising.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Is Arrested for Fraud; Yona Metzger Hit with Bribery, Money Laundering

Israel's former chief rabbi was arrested today (November 18, 2013) following a fraud probe by police, the AP (Associated Press) website reports.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Yona Metzger is being charged with bribery, money laundering, and income tax violations.

Rosenfeld said the crimes were allegedly committed while Metzger served as chief rabbi. Metzger denies the allegations.

Metzger was Israel's chief rabbi for its Ashkenazi -- or European-descended  -- Jews. He led Israel's supreme body for overseeing Jewish religious services, along with a second chief rabbi from the Sephardic, or Middle Eastern lineage.

High Court Refuses to Hear NSA Phone Spying; Refusal Denies Millions of Americans of Privacy

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a notice today (November 18, 2013) acknowledging -- without comment -- that it would not take up the matter introduced last June by a privacy watchdog group, after NSA (National Security Agency) leaker Edward Snowden revealed evidence showing that the US Intelligence Agency was collecting private information on the phone calls of millions of American customers of the Verizon company on a regular basis, the World News Views website reports.

The disclosures leaked by Snowden prompted the Washington, DC-based Electronic Privacy Information Center -- or EPIC -- to ask the Supreme Court to take action to end the collection of phone records by NSA on a major scale.

EPIC said it believed NSA's unrestricted collection of private communications data violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

However, the Supreme Court today denied EPIC its plea to be heard. Needless to say, the court's  denial is a sad blow to the privacy to which Americans are entitled -- as well as to the American system of jurisprudence.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pope Francis Sparks a Resurgence in Cath. Church; Cath. Inspired by His Effort to Modernize Church

After more than a decade of decline, the Roman Catholic Church is experiencing a resurgence in popularity with Pope Francis credited with filling the pews again, the News (Australian) website reports today (November 17, 2013).

Catholics across the globe are going back to church because they are inspired by the charismatic Argentinian-born Pope Francis and his refreshing approach to modernize the church. Moreover, his exceptional humility and his simple and anti-materialistic lifestyle have had a significant impact on many Catholics to return to the church.

The Italian Center for Studies of New Religion has branded it the "Frances effect" where in Great Britain -- largely a Church of England (Protestant) nation -- Catholic congregations alone have risen by 20 percent. Similar support for the Catholic Church is being experienced elsewhere in the world, notably Italy, Spain, France, Latin America, and the United States.

Catholics are also glad that Pope Francis has been cleaning up the corruption in the Vatican -- a move that has resulted in what some Italian prosecutors believe is reason enough for Italy's corrupt  'ndrangheta mafia group to want to kill him.

Israelis, Saudis United on Iran's Nuclear Const.; Will Attack Iran If Its Nuclear Program Isn't Cut

Convinced that Iran is tricking the world over nuclear weapons, Israel and Saudi Arabia -- two former enemies -- are now working together to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, The Sunday Times (British) website reports today (November 17, 2013).

Israel's Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear program is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week.

Both Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Iran's military nuclear development amount to appeasement and will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.

As part of the growing co-operation, Saudi Arabia has already given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace if it attacks Iran. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are furious at the United States for its failure to take more aggressive action against Iran -- including bombing its nuclear facilities -- as the Middle East nation nears its completion of nuclear weapons.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Albania to US: Take Your Syrian Weapons and Shove Them; Activists Said Albania Would Become a "Dustbin"

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said yesterday he would not agree to a U.S. request to have Syrian chemical weapons destroyed in his country, the Balkan Insight website reports today (November 16, 2013).

In an address to his nation that followed protests across Albania, Rama said, "Albania finds it impossible to be involved in this operation." Immediately after Rama's announcement, thousands of protesters gathered outside the government's headquarters erupted in jubilation.

Based on a United Nations resolution, Syria's chemical weapons must be removed from Syria by January 2014, and destroyed before June 2014.

The U.S. had asked Albania -- the poorest nation in Europe -- to host the destruction process on its soil, which would have been done with international financial aid and technical support. However, the U.S. request provoked a plethora of protests across Albania -- especially by activists and students -- who feared the country would become a "dustbin."

N. Nigeria Leads the World in Killing Christians; Killed 1,200 Last Year, More Than Rest of World

The head of a human rights organization has determined that more Christians were killed in Northern Nigeria in 2012 than in the rest of the world combined, the Christian Post website reports today (November 16, 2013).

Ann Buwalda -- executive director of the Jubilee Campaign -- said that an estimated 1,200 Christians were killed for their faith in Northern Nigeria. That's about 60 percent of the world's Christians who were killed for their faith last year.

Buwalda added that the persecution watchdog group Open Doors agrees "with our statistics of more Christians being killed in Northern Nigeria than in the rest of the world combined."

The number, she noted, is based largely on published accounts and sources, making it a conservative estimate.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Norwegian News Anchor Fired for Wearing Cross; Muslims Said "Chain with a Cross Insulted Islam"

Siv Kristin Saellmann -- a popular TV news anchor in Norway -- was suspended from her job for appearing on the air with a cross on a necklace, the Pravda (Russian) website reports today (November 15, 2013).

Her appearance on the screen with a gold pendant -- decorated with black diamonds in the shape of a Christian symbol -- caused outrage among some of her viewers.

Members of the local Muslim community organized protests claiming that "a chain with a cross insulted Islam." They also said displaying the Christian symbol did not guarantee the impartiality of the TV channel.

Consequently, Saellmann was suspended from her duties, so as not to become a source of discord and legal action.

China's Govt. Ends Country's One-Child Policy; Ends Using Labor Camps to Re-Educate People

The ruling party of China announced today (November 15, 2013) a change in China's infamous "one-child" policy. It ruled that an urban couple can have two children -- as long as one of the two parents is an only child -- according to the Slate website.

The one-child policy in China -- the world's most populous nation with more than a billion people -- has had a negative impact on its society, as it has left China with a rapidly aging population and a severe gender imbalance among its younger citizens.

Because of the one-child policy, a plethora of couples would have an abortion if they were expecting a girl, with the hope of having a boy during the woman's next pregnancy.

Also today, China's ruling party decided that China will no longer try to "re-educate" people by sentencing them to slave labor camps. Indeed, today was a very productive day for the Chinese people -- perhaps the most productive day China has had in more than half a century.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ital.Prosecutor:Pope Francis May Be Mafia Target; Mafia Mad Its Deals with Corrupt Bishops Waning

Pope Francis' anti-corruption stance could put his life at risk from "the most dangerous, most unified, and most difficult to penetrate" mafia clan in Italy, an Italian prosecutor said today (November 14, 2013), according to the Newser website.

As "Pope Francis is dismantling centers of economic power in the Vatican," mobsters are "nervous and agitated" that their dealings with corrupt bishops could come to an end, says prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, who has battled 'Ndrangheta mob clan, told an Italian daily newspaper. "I don't know if organized crime is in a position to do something, but certainly they are thinking about it."

Gratteri continued: "'Ndrangheta and the church walk hand in hand... The mafia that invests, that launders money, that therefore has the real power, is the mafia which has got rich for years" off its alliance with the church.

But after Pope Francis' fiery speech against corruption earlier this week and several pope-backed reforms in the Vatican, "it could be dangerous," said Gratteri. "They wouldn't hesitate to trip him (the pope) up," Gratteri added.

Austrian Court Convicts 7 Men of Nazi Activities; Sentences 2 Men to 6 Yrs. in Prison, 5 to Fewer

An Austrian court in the town of Wels has found seven men guilty of neo-Nazi activities and has sentenced them to up to six years in prison, the News Daily website reports today (November 14, 2013).

The men made statements such as "The Fuehrer is always right," at meetings in their clubhouse near the Upper Austrian town of Voecklabruck, about 120 miles west of Vienna.

A video -- seen at the court trial -- has some of the men shouting "Heil Hitler," and shows the clubhouse decorated with Nazi symbols.

Two unidentified men were each sentenced to six-year prison terms. The five others received lighter jail sentences.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Two Girls Quit School in Prague Due to Hijab Ban; Human Rights Org. Claims Muslims' Rights Denied

Two Muslim girls have dropped out of a nursing secondary school in Prague because they were not allowed to wear their hijabs -- being the first to have ended their studies for this reason in the Czech Republic -- the Europe News website reports today (November 13, 2013).

Czech authorities said the case would probably end up with the ombudsman's office, and lawyers were considering filing an anti-discrimination lawsuit.

Ivanka Kohoutova -- the principal of the Prague school -- said the school had made no mistake. She believes that since the law did not define the wearing of hijabs, schools could create their own rules.

On the other hand, human rights organizations believe that this is discrimination and intervention in personality rights.

Israeli Soldier Dies from a Terrorist Knife Attack; Eden Atlas, 19, Murdered on Bus by Arab Terrorist

A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was stabbed to death today (November 13, 2013) as he slept on a bus from Nazareth to a central bus station in Afula, according to the Jewish Press website.

Eden Atlas joined the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) just three weeks ago and was a resident of Nazareth.

Hussein Jawadara of Jenin is a 15-year-old Arab terrorist who stabbed Atlas all over his body. Doctors at a hospital fought for Atlas's life, but they were unable to save him.

Jawadara -- who had entered Israel illegally -- was captured and his knife was recovered by bus passengers, and turned over to security forces. Both of his brothers are imprisoned in Israeli prisons for terrorist activities -- one brother for murdering a Jew when he was only 15 (the same age as Jawadara).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mortar Attack Kills 9 Children at Damascus School; Another 4 Students Killed in Bab Sharqi District

Nine children were killed and 27 people wounded when rebels' mortar rounds struck the St. John of Damascus Orthodox Christian school and a school bus in the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (November 12, 2013).

Another four students were killed when a mortar hit the vehicle in which they were riding, in the central Bab Sharqi district of the capital. The driver was also killed.

Six others inside the bus were wounded in the terrorist attack.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad uses the blanket term "terrorists" to refer to rebels in Syria.

KY Baptist Charity Rejects Proposal to Hire Gays; Had Legal Troubles for Yrs. for Firing Gay Worker

The Kentucky-based Baptist Charity called Sunrise Children's Service voted down a proposal on November 8 -- which was supported by the charity's president -- to allow hiring of openly gay individuals, the Christian Post website reports today (November 12, 2013).

Joyce Smith -- chairwoman of Sunrise's Board of Trustees -- said that the decision was made for the benefit of the exploited children the charity serves.

"With this decision, we are not promoting anything other than the physical, mental, and spiritual welfare of our children," said Smith.

For years, Sunrise has been the focus of legal issues surrounding its decision to fire an employee who was in a same-sex relationship.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Exclusive: Egypt Is Worst Arab Nation for Women; Over 99 Percent of Women Suffered Sexual Abuse

The fallout from the political upheaval in Egypt has made it the worst country in the Arab world in which to be a woman, according to research published exclusively today (November 11, 2013) in The Independent (British) website.

Increasingly, commonplace sexual violence has combined with plummeting female representation in parliament and growth in more extreme Islamic views to push the country to the bottom of the region for women's rights. According to United Nations research published earlier this year, more than 99 percent of women and girls in Egypt have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

The island nation of Comoros -- where women hold 20 percent of ministerial positions and wives generally keep land or the home after divorce -- came out on top, according to the research released today. It was followed by Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar. On the other hand, Iraq was ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.

In politics, Egypt's uprisings have brought disappointment for women, with female representation in parliament falling from 12 percent to just 2 percent following the abolition of quotas. It was hoped that the Arab Spring would have presented fresh opportunities for women, but instead the situation has become worse for many, as revolts have resulted in conflict and instability.

Anti-Semitism Hits NY's Pine Bush School District; Three Jewish Families Slap District with Lawsuit

Joan Carbone -- superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District located 90 miles north of New York City -- acknowledged in a statement issued yesterday that the school district is getting "much media attention" since a New York Times article published on November 8 reported on years of swastikas and anti-Semitic behavior on the part of students there, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (November 11, 2013).

The alleged behavior has caused three Jewish families to file a lawsuit against the school district and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to order investigations into the allegations of anti-Semitic harassment. Several parents have said that the school district has not taken the anti-Semitic incidents seriously.

"We are confident that the investigations from the Governor's office will demonstrate our intolerance for racism and acceptance of diversity in our District," Carbone wrote in the statement.

Citing depositions in the lawsuit, The New York Times reported that Jewish students have complained of anti-Semitic epithets and nicknames, jokes about the Holocaust, being forced to retrieve coins from dumpsters, and physical violence. Fellow students are also accused of making Nazi salutes and telling anti-Semitic jokes. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Patriarch Irinej: Serbia Can't Give Up on Kosovo; Must Say "No Thanks" to EU and Keep Kosovo

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, said that Serbia cannot give up on Kosovo, and if the price for the entry into the European Union (EU) is losing Kosovo, then, he said, we would rather be out of Europe, the In Serbia website reports today (November 10, 2013).

"If the price of entry to Europe is to secede Kosovo, then we have to say 'thank you but no thank you' to Europe. We prefer to stay alone without Europe, if it must be, but with our Kosovo," said Patriarch Irinej receiving at the Patriarchate, the participants of international Pan-European conference on human and religious rights.

The Patriarch said that Serbia cannot give up Kosovo and that the international community must find a solution because "if we managed to live three centuries with Siptars (persons of Albanian descent),  why couldn't we live together today?"  Kosovo is our history, culture, our spirituality, the Patriarch said and urged the international community to allow the Serb refugees to return to Kosovo.

Kosovo was a province of Serbia until February 2008, when it seceded and declared itself an independent nation. Serbia continues today to declare Kosovo's secession illegal, and refuses to recognize it as a separate nation.

WCC Urges US to Normalize Relations with Cuba; Says Blockade Against a Nation Hurts Its People

At a meeting held last week in Busan, South Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) -- which represents some 560 million Christians -- adopted a resolution urging the United States to lift its embargo on Cuba and to normalize relations with the communist Caribbean nation, the Ecumenical News website reports today (November 10, 2013).

The WCC declared: "We believe that the economic, commercial, and financial blockade against any country causes enormous pain to its people, especially the poor and vulnerable. In this context, the delegates of the 10th Assembly of the WCC urge the U.S. government to lift the economic sanctions against Cuba and to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba."

The Geneva-based grouping represents mainly Anglican, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, and although the Roman Catholic Church is not a member, it serves on WCC committees and cooperates with it in many spheres.

In the resolution passed on November 7 by the Assembly -- the highest governing body of the WCC -- it noted that relations between the United States and Cuba have been strained by tensions and confrontations since the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mormon Church Buys Fla. Land for $565M; Becomes Largest Private Landowner in Fla.

The Mormon Church -- which has made a deal to buy some 400,000 acres of land in Florida's lesser developed Panhandle region -- will soon become Florida's largest private landowner, the Inquisitr website reports today (November 9, 2013).

A statement released by St. Joe Company -- a Florida real estate firm -- explained that the property purchased by the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church is mostly timberland. The Mormon Church intends to maintain timber and agricultural uses of the land.

The sales agreement was signed by the church's company, AgReserves Inc. for $565 million and is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals. However, the deal is expected to be finalized, most likely in the first quarter of 2014.

The Mormon Church is already one of Florida's largest landowners, because it owns Deseret Ranches -- a 290,000-acre cattle and citrus operation that straddles three Central Florida counties. Deseret has the largest cow-calf range in the United States, with some 44,000 head of cattle.

Germans Observe 75th Anniv. of Kristallnacht; 30,000 Jews Deported to Camps, 1,000 Killed

Germans across the country today (November 9, 2013) are commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- the night of broken glass -- during which the Nazis staged a wave of attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria, the Big News Network website reports.

On November 9, 1938, hundreds of synagogues were burned, numerous homes and Jewish-owned stores were ransacked, some 1,000 Jews were killed, and more than 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps.

The attacks marked the beginning of the state-organized, violent persecution of Jews which ended in the murder of six million European Jews by the end of the Third Reich in 1945.

Germans in many cities and towns held candle-light vigils, listened to Jewish survivors share memories, and met at Jewish cemeteries to remember the victims of Kristallnacht during today's commemorations.

Despite the many positive activities today, some speakers sounded a note of caution, reminding their listeners that anti-Semitism is still a problem -- and is getting worse -- in Europe. A poll of European Jews released yesterday (November 8) found that more than three-quarters of those questioned believe anti-Semitism is surging in their home countries, and about one-third have considered emigrating because they don't feel safe.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Billy Graham Gives His "Last Sermon" at NC Hotel; Urges "Spiritual Awakening," Says US Has Strayed

Billy Graham -- considered by many theologians to be the most inspiring evangelist the world has ever known --  is too frail to preach these days, but a video billed as his final sermon made its debut at his 95th birthday party last night (November 7), the Newser website reports today (November 8, 2013).

In "My Hope America" -- which will be aired on Christian TV channels and in churches across America -- Graham calls for a "spiritual awakening" and warns that America has strayed. "There have been times that I've wept as I've gone from city to city and I've seen how far people have wandered from God," he says.

More than 800 people -- including many celebrities and politicians -- attended Graham's birthday celebration at a North Carolina hotel.

Graham -- who received a standing ovation when he entered the room in a wheelchair -- gave special thanks to 90-year-old music director Cliff Barrows, a part of his spiritual "crusades" since they began in 1944. Other guests included Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, singer Ricky Skaggs, and former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

PLO: Israel "Only Suspect" in Arafat "Killing;" Polonium Only Owned by States, Not People

Palestinian investigators named Israel the "only suspect" in the death of Yasser Arafat, after laboratory tests suggested the Palestinian leader died of poisoning, the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) website reports today (November 8, 2013).

"We say that Israel is the prime and only suspect in the case of Yasser Arafat's assassination, and we will continue to carry out a thorough investigation to find out and confirm all the details and all elements of the case," Tawfiq Tirawi told a news conference today in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Tirawi -- who is leading the Palestinian inquiry -- said the investigation had studied the findings of Swiss scientists, released on November 6, which "moderately" supported the notion that Arafat had been poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

Palestinian officials on November 7 demanded an international inquiry into Arafat's "killing." Wasel Abu Yusef -- a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official -- said polonium "is owned by states, not people, meaning that the crime was committed by a state."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Student Refused to Run in Cross Country Playoffs; Felt She'd Offend God by Wearing 666 Number

A high school student from Kentucky recently passed up an opportunity to participate in the regional cross country championships after she was assigned 666 as her bib number, the Christian News website reports today (November 7, 2013).

Junior Codie Thacker attends Whitley County High School in Williamsburg. She states that she has prepared since June to participate in the regional championships, but laid it all down when faced with the choice of keeping her number or honoring God.

Her coach, Gina Croley, told reporters that when she discovered that the number 666 had been assigned to Thacker, she knew that Thacker wouldn't wear it. Croley was right. "It's the mark of the beast; that's what the Bible says," Thacker told television station WLEX-TV, referring to the citation in Revelation 13:18.

Croley thought the situation could be rectified quickly simply by assigning another number to Thacker. However, when both Croley and Thacker approached officials in hopes of obtaining a new bib number, they were denied. After failed attempts to have the number changed via three separate officials, Thacker decided to drop out of the race.

Pope Will Receive Russian Pres. Putin on Nov. 25; Visit May Improve Cath.-Russian Orth. Relations

Pope Francis will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25 -- an encounter that could help mend strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church -- the Global Post website reports today (November 7, 2013).

Russian-Vatican relations have been fraught since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, with Moscow accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to poach believers from the Russian Orthodox Church -- a charge the Vatican denies.

But Putin is the first Kremlin leader since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to publicly profess religious faith -- to the Orthodox Church -- and has several times advocated ending the long feud between the two major Christian churches.

On his Vatican visit, Putin could invite Pope Francis to visit Russia, diplomats said.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Russian Orthodox Church Awards Putin with Prize; Certificate Lauds Putin's Work to Empower Russia

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on November 4 awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin with a prize in recognition of his policies intended to make Russia a leading world power, the Orthodox Church Info blog reports today (November 6, 2013).

The award (a certificate of recognition) was established this year by the World Russian People's Council -- a public organization under the aegis of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill -- who chairs the council -- said the prize was to honor Putin's efforts to turn Russia into "a powerful and strong country that has self-respect and is respected by others."

The World Russian People's Council -- which has existed since 1993 -- is described by its organizers as one of the biggest international public forums playing an important part in forming Russia's civil society. It replaced the communist holiday of November 7 that celebrated the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which led to Russia becoming a communist nation until 1991.

Exclusive: Yasser Arafat Poisoned with Polonium; Tests Reveal Body Had 18 Times Po's Normal Level

Swiss scientists -- who conducted intensive tests on samples taken from Yasser Arafat's body -- have found that at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in his remains. The scientists said they were confident up to an 83 percent level that the late Palestinian leader was poisoned with it -- a conclusion that "moderately supports" polonium as the cause of his death -- the Al Jazeera website reports exclusively today (November 6, 2013).

A 108-page report by the University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland -- which was obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera -- found unnaturally high levels of polonium in Arafat's ribs and pelvis, and in soil stained with his decaying organs.

The Swiss scientists -- along with French and Russian teams -- obtained the samples last November after Arafat's body was exhumed from a mausoleum in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Arafat died on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75.

Dave Barclay -- a United Kingdom forensic scientist and retired detective -- told Al Jazeera that with these results he was wholly convinced that Arafat was murdered. "Yasser Arafat died of polonium poisoning," he said. "We found the smoking gun that caused his death. What we don't know is who was holding the gun at the time."

Suha Arafat -- the Palestinian leader's widow -- received a copy of the Swiss scientists' report in Paris yesterday (November 5). "When they came with the results, I'm mourning Yasser again," she said. "It's like you just told me he died."

Mayor Charged with Stealing Toys for Tots' Money; Greenbrier, TN Mayor Billy Wilson Nabbed by TBI

Workers at Greenbrier, Tennessee city hall were shocked this week to see the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) arrest the mayor on charges that he stole money from the Toys for Tots charity just before the Christmas season, the Raw Story website reports today (November 6, 2013).

TBI agents abruptly showed up on November 4 to take Greenbrier Mayor Billy Wilson into custody.

Wilson -- who also serves as the city's fire chief -- was charged with official misconduct and theft of  $60,000 from Toys for Tots -- a charity that provides toys to poor children and helps families pay bills during the holiday season.

Agents began investigating Wilson early last month, TBI spokesperson Kristen Helm said.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vatican Slams Reports of Women Being Cardinals; Irish Media Reported Pope Might Name 2 Women

The Vatican moved yesterday to quash speculation that at least two women would be among the cardinals that Pope Francis will name in February, saying such a move was "not a realistic possibility," the Religion News Service website reports today (November 5, 2013).

Last weekend, Irish media reported that Pope Francis could name Linda Hogan and Mary McAleese as cardinals. Both are associated with Trinity College in Dublin: Hogan as a professor of ecumenism, and McAleese -- the former president of Ireland -- as a former professor.

Francis has made many unexpected moves since becoming pope in March, and has established himself as an advocate of women in the church, telling "America" magazine two months ago that "the church cannot be itself without women" and saying that from a theological perspective, "Mary is more important than the bishops."

Rev. Federico Lombardi -- the Vatican's chief spokesman -- did his best to stifle the speculation, calling the notion "nonsense." He added: "It is simply not a realistic possibility that the pope will name female cardinals for the consistory in February."

Cath. Church Blasts Israel for Razing Its Property; Jerusalem Cath. Head Says It Erodes Peace Process

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land protested today (November 5, 2013) against Israel's demolition of a church-owned property in annexed east Jerusalem, saying it eroded the chances for peace, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports.

"This act is against the law, against justice, and against humanity -- against any ideology upon which peace can be built -- and increases segregation and hate," Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal told journalists at the site of the demolition.

Israeli security forces and bulldozers arrived at the house at 5:00 a.m. yesterday with a previously unseen demolition order, claiming it had been built without a permit, according to residents -- a family of 14.

But Tawwal said the property -- on Jerusalem's southeastern edge close to the West Bank city of Bethlehem -- had been standing since before 1967, when Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. He added that the Catholic Church will appeal for compensation to Israeli and international courts over the demolition.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Maria Now Living with Foster Family in Bulgaria; DNA Tests in Greece Found Parents in Bulgaria

Maria -- the little blonde girl found in October in a Roma camp in central Greece whose birth parents are from a Bulgarian Roma village -- is now being cared for by a foster family in Bulgaria, according to the Greek Reporter website.

The international mystery about Maria, 4, ended when the DNA tests showed that a couple from Bulgaria are in fact her biological parents. Her mother, Saska Ruseva, said she wanted her child back, although that seems highly unlikely.

The Agency for Social Assistance announced that it will also take action to care for the other underage children of the Bulgarian couple. The agency also said that her parents and their nine children have been living in poverty in a one-room mud brick house in the village of Nikolaevo, in central Bulgaria.

The children will be temporarily placed in the families of relatives and foster care. Social workers will support the contact between the children and their parents on a daily basis.

Jewish Group Rips Germany's Secret of Stolen Art; Failed for 2 Years to Report Art Find Worth $1.4B

A Jewish group accused Germany today (November 4, 2013) of moral complicity in concealment of stolen paintings, after it emerged authorities failed for two years to report the discovery of a treasure of art seized by the Nazis -- including works by Picasso and Matisse -- according to the Yahoo News website.

Customs officials' chance discovery of 1,500 artworks in a Munich flat -- owned by the reclusive elderly son of a World War II-era art dealer -- was revealed in a report by the news magazine Focus yesterday.

Officials in the southern state of Bavaria declined comment on what could be one of the most significant recoveries of Nazi-looted art. They have called a press conference for tomorrow (November 5). German government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed the find and said experts were assessing its original source.

Focus estimated that the works found among the stacks of hoarded groceries in the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt could be worth well over 1.4 billion dollars. "This case shows the extent of organized art looting which occurred in museums and private collections," said Ruediger Mahlo, of the Conference of Jewish material claims against Germany, noting private art collections were almost all Jewish.

Bold Mursi Tells Egypt Court "I'm Still President;" His Trial Is Postponed Until Jan. 8 Due to Chaos

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi told an Egyptian court today (November 4, 2013) that he is still the country's president, as his trial was put back until January 8, 2014, amid chaotic court  scenes, according to the Euro News website.

Proceedings in Cairo were first delayed after the deposed leader -- who is charged with inciting the killing of protesters -- refused to wear a white prison uniform, instead wearing a dark suit.

As the trial began, Mursi interrupted the session repeatedly, chanting "down with military rule." He also gave the Muslim Brotherhood hand gesture to express his disgust at a raid in August on a protest camp by security forces, who shot dead more than 200 people there at the height of their action against the Islamists.

Amid the noise and disruption the judge announced the trial's adjournment. Mursi was then flown to a jail in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Israel "Fuming" at US Over Leak on Syrian Strike; Assad May Strike Israel Due to White House Leak

Israeli officials are "furious" with the White House for telling the world that Israel was behind the October 30 strike on a Syrian military site, the Breitbart website reports today (November 3, 2013).

According to "The Times of Israel," although Israel "has not acknowledged carrying out the strike," U.S. officials made it clear that Israel bombed a Syrian storage site containing Russian missiles.

A November 1 report on Israel's Channel 2 said the leak "came directly from the White House." Channel 2 military analyst Roni Daniel said Israel had not claimed responsibility for the attack because it wanted to maintain "plausible deniability." This would keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from feeling he had to respond to the strike.

Now, because of the White House leak, that deniability is gone, and Daniel expects Assad "will respond."

Mideast Countries Give Up on US "Leadership;" Move to Support Syrian Rebels Ind. of US Policy

Frustrated and angry by the failure of the United States to take military action in Syria to help overthrow Syrian President Assad, several Persian Gulf countries -- led by Saudi Arabia -- are moving to strengthen their military support for Syrian rebels and to develop policy options independent from the United States, the Washington Post website reports today (November 3, 2013).

Although the Saudis and others in the region have been supplying weapons to the rebels since the fighting in Syria began more than two years ago and have cooperated with a slow-starting CIA operation to train and arm the opposition, officials say they have given up on the United States as the leader and coordinator of their efforts.

Instead, the Saudis plan to expand training facilities they operate in neighboring Jordan and increase the firepower of arms sent to rebel groups that are fighting extremist elements among them even as they battle the Syrian government, according to gulf officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve their friendly relations with the United States.

Unhappiness over Syria is only one element of what officials said are varying degrees of disenchantment in the region with much of the Obama Administration's Middle East policy -- or its lack of policy -- including its nuclear negotiations with Iran and criticism of Egypt's new government.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Christians Around World Observe IDOP Nov.3,10; Will Pray in 150 Nations for Persecuted Believers

Christians around the world will observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) either this Sunday (November 3) or on November 10, with more than half a million churches in 150 nations participating, the Christian Post website reports today (November 2, 2013).

Jerry Dykstra -- director of media relations for "Open Doors USA" -- said that prayer is the "number one request" of believers in persecuted nations, and even those who are the persecuted are praying for Christians in other nations.

For example, Christians in Nigeria pray for other persecuted believers in the Middle East, said Dykstra. A century ago, about 20 percent of the population in North Africa and the Middle East was Christian, according to Open Doors, but Christ-followers now make up only four percent of the population there due to persecution.

"The point is that in some of our lifetimes we could see almost no Christians in the Middle East," said Dykstra. "It's possible... Are we going to let this happen on our watch?"

Vatican Asks Its Clerics to Survey Modern Issues; Seeks Worshipers' Views on Gay Marriage, Divorce

The Vatican has called on important church figures around the world to find out what their parishioners think about subjects such as gay marriage, divorce, and birth control, the Big News Network website reports today (November 2, 2013).

Bishops and parish priests will issue an informal survey on the issues preceding a meeting of bishops next year.

The next Roman Catholic synod -- which is scheduled to meet in October 2014 -- will discuss issues such as including gay couples and their adopted children in the Church.

A questionnaire relating to the once taboo subjects was sent in October and announced on the National Catholic Reporter's website this week. Many bishops have already posted the survey online, so that Catholics and others can respond to it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

US Drone Strike Kills Leader of Pakistani Taliban; US Had a $5M Bounty on Hakimullah Mehsud

Pakistani intelligence officials said today (November 1, 2013) that an American drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, according to the New York Times website.

If confirmed, his death would be a major achievement for the covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program at a time when drones have come under renewed scrutiny over civilian casualties in both Pakistan and the United States.

Mehsud -- a showy and ruthless militant leader whose group has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians across Pakistan as well as many soldiers -- had a $5 million United States government bounty on his head.

The CIA and the White House declined to comment on the reported militant commander's death.

Kerry: Obama Admin.Will Stop Some NSA Spying; Actions "Reached Too Far" Won't Occur in Future

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is acknowledging that some National Security Agency (NSA) spying has reached too far and says it will be stopped, the Denver Post website reports today (November 1, 2013).

Kerry says that because of modern technology, some NSA activities have been happening on "automatic pilot" without Obama administration officials knowing about them.

He adds that ongoing reviews of U.S. surveillance work will ensure that technology is not being abused, and that the Obama administration is going to make sure activities that have "reached too far" do not happen in the future.

Sweeping surveillance practices by the NSA have drawn the ire of several nations that have called for investigations and have demanded the U.S. stop spying on its allies.